By Sajjad Shaukat
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) affirms that “education is a fundamental human right for everyone without any discrimination.”
The UN Charter elaborated that education is a basic right of every human being, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity. It is one of the main building blocks of human development.
“As per the law, the Indian State is duty bound to protect, respect and fulfill the right to education, but it is quite unfortunate that the Indian government has been hampering the provision of access to education to Kashmiris.
Indian government’s assault on Kashmiris’education reached unlimited proportions on August 5, 2019 when the Indian extremist government revoked articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to the disputed territory of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). New Delhi bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories—Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to be ruled by the federal government.
On the same day, Indian radical Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the fanatic ruling party BJP also imposed a strict lockdown in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and deployed more than 900,000 troops there. Indian military and paramilitary troopers have martyred tens of thousands of Kashmiris, including women and children through ruthless tactics, firing of pallets and extrajudicial killings. Due to the military clampdown in the IOK, the shortage of food items and medicines even for the disease-affected persons, including students especially the Kashmiri Muslims stopped, as they have been facing painful deaths. To conceal India’s state terrorism, Kashmir has been cut off from the rest of the world.
As part of the anti-Kashmir moves, Indian fundamentalist rulers accelerated the implementation of the ideology of Hindutva ((Hindu Nationalism) and imposed various restrictions on the Kashmiris, which also targeted their educational institutions, including schools of the IIOJK.
However, all fundamental freedoms as mentioned in the UN UDHR/UN Charter are being made hostage to a fascist mindset of the BJP, as the rights of education to Kashmiri students are continuously being denied with nefarious intentions.
Violence and civil strife have placed the region’s education sector on a backseat while taking a heavy toll on the mental health of children. Indian occupation forces have turned IIOJK into the largest prison where even managing daily life routines are challenging.
Since the military and communication blockade, thousands of political leaders, journalists, teachers and students remain incarcerated in IIOJK under draconian laws and trumped-up charges.
Nevertheless, breaks in education faced by children of Kashmir are unpredictable, surrounded by fear, trauma and lack of stimulating activity.
While IIOJK is the only place in the world where 2.7 million hapless children do not have access to knowledge and information.
Students have been suffering with no hope of a secure future in the IIOJK region. The clampdown on education has also disrupted the livelihood of around 65,000 teaching and non-teaching staff who are dependent on schools.
In this respect, writer Shehryar Ali already wrote on May 24, 2018: “In Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir…Conflict situations invariably take a toll on education: through physical destruction/damage to education facilities; loss of teaching staff (e.g because they are victims of conflict, fear, breakdown of service delivery structures); physical and psychological trauma experienced by students; and the general challenges involved in trying to carry on a ‘normal’ life with the ever-present threat of violence. Denial of education opportunities often means denial of future for young people- thereby perpetuating the negative effects of conflict.”
Ali explained: “The closures and violence seen in schools have led to student uprisings and protests, as Kashmiri students see their education put at risk and being militarised. A study by Chinar International found a deep sense of pessimism regarding education in terms of quality and outcome. The continued violence has left some school buildings in Kashmir without proper sanitation facilities, water and boundary walls…with military camps often found close to school buildings and campuses…lead to a negative psychological impact on children, which caused higher dropout rates and has certainly been the case in Indian occupied Kashmir valley”.
The writer further indicated: “The explosive violence has also had additional impacts on girls…Many parents see an increased risk for their daughters when schools in areas have experienced shelling. The closeness of military camps also puts girls in increased danger, with the presence of army personnel meaning girls are more at risk of sexual violence, abuse and other forms of harassment. This leads to a further rise in the dropout rates in these schools for girls.”
According to the Anadolu Agency, a high school teacher Mohammad Altaf Baktoo told [on August 5, 2020]: “It has become really difficult to manage the education of our children since there been no school at all from the last 12 months…Last year, education suffered a major blow when regional administration closed educational institutions on Aug. 4 in the run-up to a decision by the Indian government to strip limited autonomy of the region…with a strict military and communication blockade”.
In its report Anadolu Agency also highlighted that mental health issues among children saw a spike in Kashmir as schools remain shut for 31 months owing to the security situation.
Child psychologists opine that frequent disruptions in formal schooling, limited opportunities to socialise, and erratic schedules are leading to a rise in depression and behavioral issues among children.
Farhana Yaseen, a counsellor at the Child Guidance and Well-being Centre in Srinagar, stated: “many children are suffering because of the extended shutdown of schools…students are suffering from anxiety as they feel they have nothing ‘left’ in their lives after remaining confined to this situation”.
A psychiatrist Yasir Rather said: “if we confine a child under extreme volatile environments, it is definitely going to hit them hard mentally.”
A New Delhi-based rights group that included human rights activists and a psychiatrist in a report released in November  suggested that the disruption caused by the August lockdown had a profound effect on children’s lives.
It pointed out: “There is no school, no structure, no healthy recreation and no sense of safety, which are essential for normal growth and emotional development.” It added that acute anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal tendencies and symptoms of post-traumatic stress are growing among children.”
Meanwhile, New Delhi is now actively depriving the youth of the occupied Jammu and Kashmir of seeking higher education opportunities abroad, especially in Pakistan.
In this context, in a statement on May 12, this year, a senior leader of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Altaf Hussain Wani has condemned the Indian authorities for imposing a ban on Kashmiri students to travel to Pakistan for pursuing higher education.
Terming it a violation of international law, the APHC leader, while underlying the Indian government’s motive behind the move pointed out: “Indian UGC [University Grants Commission] and [All India Council for Technical Education] AICTE’s joint advisory is tantamount to criminalising and colonizing education to instill a sense of inferiority and disempowerment within the Kashmiris.”
Regarding Indian the notification in this connection, Wani added that it “bears the racial imprints that go in synch with the BJP’s belligerent and hostile policy towards Kashmiris…Baring aspiring students to travel abroad is a well-thought-out conspiracy to deprive Kashmiris of their inalienable right to education.”
Nonetheless, restrictions made on Kashmiri students to travel abroad, and to Pakistan are unjustified, which can affect the future of hundreds of students.
Notably, the Indian government also ordered on June 14, 2022 a ban on all schools run by the Falahi Aam Trust (FAT), accusing that these schools are affiliated with the banned organisation Jamat-e-Islami. As a result of Indian unjustified action, more than 10 thousand teachers who were working in these schools are jobless now, while since 1990, these schools have played an enormous role in imparting quality education and increasing the literacy rate in Kashmir.
This serious situation deserves preventive action by the international community as well as the UN, EU and OIC. Kashmiri students already studying in different geographies, including Pakistan, are grievously affected by the Indian designs.
The world must wake up to the misery of Kashmiri people and take steps to help improve their living conditions, in particular, to facilitate the education of children.
Instead of oppression and playing with the lives of Kashmiri youth—creating harassment and humiliation for students, New Delhi must come forward and assist Kashmiri students to get an education without any restriction.
It is mentionable that children are an asset to every country and community, their education plays a key role in the development of a country. And from the Greek empire to the present era, various countries have made progress in every field due to research and education.
Hence, international Literacy Day is celebrated each year on September 8, which aims to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. But, it is a misfortune that the Indian fascist regime is endlessly denying the rights of education to Kashmiri students.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is the author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations